Today, we bring you a lore and game ideas surrounding death, the Shadowfel and the mysterious Raven Queen.
But, first, let’s look at a character reference going back to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Our man PANDA really liked the Rogue subclass, Phantom, and brought the concept to the table and the character creation crew went to work. One of our wheelhouses is spinning out new characters, especially PANDA.
Myndartis Nailo was born in Shadowfel to Shidar Kai Assassins. His family has had a history of serving the Raven Queen as her special hunters. They were not just killers, not just assassins; they were hunters of a specific order.
But first, a little lore.
The Raven Queen was thought by some to have begun as a fey queen who was followed by a loving people. She was supposedly around during the conflict between the creature that would become Lolth and the head of the Elven Pantheon, the Fey god Corellon. In an attempt to stay the coming war and schism, the queen attempted to become a deity to be powerful enough to intersect between them and, possibly, stop the insanity. This ritual, as most powerful, Mythal-type magic does, required sacrifice of life. Many of her followers gladly fell on the blade on behalf of their queen and her quest for deity.
But, as it was sometimes, the ritual didn’t go as planned.
Some among her following lusted after power for their own gain and syphoned power from the ritual. Upon learning of this, the queen cursed the evil, self-serving wizards but at the cost of corrupting the spell. The queen and her loyal, sacrificed subjects were plunged into the Shadowfel, killing the good queen instantly.
But, as with most D&D stories of this sort, that was not the end of the story.
Enough of the ritual was cast to grant her divinity; raising her from the ashes. Unfortunately, both Correlon and Lolth saw this as treason and wiped the memory of her from the minds of all elves. This, apparently, included her. She grasped onto what memories of her she could from the Shadowfel and clung to them. She lost her physical form and became a mass of ‘disconnected sensory perceptions’.
This brings us back to Myndartis and his renown family.
His kin were the ones the Raven Queen called when something had to be found and returned. It was possibly a stolen artifact or a magic item she refused to let wander the planes. But, most of all, they found things that recorded in art and history that proved she existed and returned to her precious memories of her psyche. This took the best of adventurers and thieves for many times they were sent to the Feywild or to the library of a powerful mage.
PLAYING A PHANTOM
A phantom lingers in that shadowy place in-between the light and the dark, life and death. Much like Myndartis’ family work, being so accustomed to killing and so close to that thin thread of life right before it is cut, never to be connected again, brings them all into this twilight of worlds. The Phantom is a subclass of Rogue found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Myndartis has gained knowledge of abilities he has never been taught by the living. Instead, many of the dead, both those you have killed and those who have taken notice of you, aid you in your daily actions. The 3rd Level WHISPERS of the DEAD feature of this subclass gives your character access to proficiencies in abilities and tools they have never been trained in. Having one foot in the afterlife has its benefits after all.
Being a rogue, Myndartis is accustomed to pushing enemies closer to the brink of death. But dealing in the threads of fate, he has learned to use them to bring harm to others in the vicinity of his attacks. Being a rogue, after all, your character deals in sneak attacks as their best type of damage. The 3rd Level WAILS of the DEAD grants your rogue the ability to deal additional damage equal to half what you just dealt this other creature in their area.
Picture to the left from TASHA’S CAULDRON OF EVERYTHING
As the Phantom raises to 9th Level, they begin to gain more and more boons from the dead. TOKENS OF THE DEPARTED are trinkets gained when someone dies around you. Myndartis receives coins from the dead that he can ‘spend’ to talk to the dead, gain new instances of WAILS of the DEAD and get advantage on death saving throws and Con saves. The more adept one gets at this, the harder they are to kill.
Unlucky level 13 may be just to opposite for your rogue. GHOST WALK (interestingly enough the name of a book from an older edition that deals with death and the departed) brings your character closer to the grave allowing a bit as a ‘spectral form’. Tell me this won’t aid ANY rogue.
Image by Wizards of the Coast
Finally, at Level 17, you are not just acquainted with death, you are now DEATH’S FRIEND. Your abilities TOKENS of the DEPARTED and WAILS of the DEAD get more boosts.
CAMPAIGN SEEDS AND ADVENTURE HOOKS
Myndartis is extremely dedicated to three things: Family, his people and their god, The Raven Queen.
Past this there is nothing else. If his deity speaks, he listens and obeys. There is no where he wouldn’t go, no danger he would run from in the process and no item or prize his Queen demands of him that he wouldn’t move literal heaven and earth for. This the code of his kind and his life is caught up with the task of pleasing their god.
As a part of a party, he would be a loner unless that party was made up of only Shadar Kai (more later). Classic rogue, he would have personal goals and target items that were, not only unknown to the others, but more important that the other’s survival. This could possibly be a road to bridging the gap between his people and all others. He may learn to trust those outside of his clan and make lifelong friends that his family would never understand. Or he may betray them all. That’s the dramatic tension, after all.
Optimally, he would function perfectly as a part of a Shadar Kai task force united for a common goal. They would have to stick to their selves in most settlements. Albino elves would draw attention. Masks are probably needed. That and shadow.
The Adventure seed I would like to plant here is just that. Pull your players together for either a short adventure or even a long term game and challenge them to make the most unique characters they can within the confines of the Shadar Kai. There’s a lot of flavor to be had here. After all any task force sent on missions like theirs will benefit from a balanced party.
Warlocks who draw power from the Raven Queen as Patron would probably follow the UNDYING subclass. Shadar Kai Wizards would specialize in Shadow Magic; one of the most ancient of magics and one that some say their god originated. Clerics would, of course, serve her while taking the Death Domain or maybe a special type dealing in memories (more later). Fighters, Barbarians and Monks would probably favor stealth against frontal assault. Their task is more about protecting the others. Bards would be powerfully adept at dirges and songs of the grave.
Like I said, LOTS of flavor.
The adventures are simple. Maybe run a entry level adventure (1-5) to warm them up to each other and their abilities. Ramp the type of items or targets as they go. I would wait till 10th level to begin to drive them to an epic target. Possibly there’s a tome of great power, a magic item or wizard that defies death and must be taught a lesson or a bard/scholar of great knowledge that can help the Queen with her memories.
But the two greatest tasks that could be asked of them are
- Find, hide or bring to here one or all of the HAND OF VECNA, the EYE OF VECNA and THE BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS
- Find a tome, piece of artwork or a person who can bring her precious memories of who she used to be
THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE WITH VECNA
The Raven Queen’s greatest enemy is Vecna. It makes sense seeing that he is a being that, not only, gained Lichdom, but godhood. His only domain listed is EVIL SECRETS. Which is interesting. There are some things that should be forgotten and most of those things are connected to Vecna.
The greatest items to keep from being found and used are, of course, the HAND OF VECNA and the EYE OF VECNA. They were all that were left of the Lich and hold great power. Also, the wielder of such items have a powerful connection to Vecna and his goals.
Of course, THE BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS, supposedly authored by Vecna, would be a worthy target also.
PIECING THE PAST TOGETHER
One of the most intriguing pieces of lore about The Raven Queen is the fact that Correlon and Lolth wiped every memory of her from the Elven race. I suppose this includes herself seeing that she still searches for every bit of information, depictions and personal memories about her and her life as a Fey Queen.
The most precious task this group or Myndartis alone could accomplish is retrieving anything that could restore the Raven Queen’s memories. However, I would think that a task of this magnitude would take a group seeing that they are dealing with the likes of the Feywild, the domains of the Seldarine (elven gods) or libraries and tombs of very powerful wizards. This could all culminate in an epic adventure to steal a memory from a very powerful being.
But also remember that most think The Raven Queen to be mad. There’s a chance that she will send her minions to collect the most wonderful of memories or an exquisitely strong emotion from anywhere. Trying to piece herself back together may become a daunting task; nigh impossible. She may settle for memories and emotions that have nothing to do with her past, but make her feel more like herself; more alive? It may be a sad realization that they serve an insane god who has veered off course; soaking up as much psyche from others as possible. All this in a vain attempt to become herself once again.
Well, this is a start. I’m more at home with some of the older deities of D&D than the Raven Queen, but reading all of this has got my mind reeling and my inner DM plotting. Let us know in the comments below